TUESDAY 11 SEP 2012 4:12 PM


Walk down nearly every high street in Great Britain and you are bound to find a Costa Coffee. And a Starbucks, and a Pret and a Greggs. Walk down the high street in Totnes, a small Devon town and you will not find a Costa, for now at least.

Townspeople and local business owners have campaigned against the impending opening of a Costa outlet since August. The town of 7,500 boasts 42 independent businesses that serve coffee. Because it relies on tourism, a recognisable brand could seriously hurt local businesses.

In the UK, 2011 saw the most new startups in a decade. Those businesses are now contending with their larger corporate cousins on the high street. The ongoing economic downturn has also tempered small businesses sustainability. With competition already tough, Totnes’ 42 cafes have a lot to protest about when confronted with a newcomer, particularly a corporate one.

Today, Joan Brady, an author from Totnes who won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award in 1993 joined the campaign against the coffee giant, despite Whitbread’s ownership of Costa.

“Totnes is a David battling a Goliath,” Brady says. “How can citizens believe in our democracy when their elected representatives overturn their wishes and favour corporate profits? It's an example of a very modern dilemma…all over the UK.”

She also points out that the UK is one of the few places where literary awards have corporate sponsorship. Both in the United States and in Canada, prestigious awards are bestowed by national endowments, not Orange or Booker.